As promised, Virgin Galactic has unveiled another of its spaceplanes, a silver-cast device called the VSS Imagine. Like the previous VSS Unity spaceplane, the VSS Imagine model is designed to transport people and scientific experiments to and from suborbital space.
However, the newcomer is the first of the next SpaceShipThree family – it includes innovations that will improve performance in terms of maintenance and flight speed. The design of the device is distinguished by a bright, but purely cosmetic change: the mirror surface of the spaceplane reflects the entire environment.
“Class SpaceShipThree, Imagine is not only beautiful to look at, but represents a growing fleet of Virgin vehicles Galactic– said the founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson (Richard Branson). – All great achievements, creations and changes begin with an idea. We hope that everyone who travels into space will return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet. ”
VSS Unity belongs to the SpaceShipTwo class spaceplanes. The original SpaceShipOne project won the $ 10 million Ansari X Award in 2004, completing two crewed flights to and from suborbital space within two weeks.
Unity and Imagine are two-pilot, six-seat space planes designed to take off from a huge launch vehicle that drops them at an altitude of about 15 kilometers. At this moment, the onboard jet engine lights up, and the device already soars into suborbital space on its own.
Virgin Galactic passengers will not circle the Earth like astronauts aboard the ISS, but will be able to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curved horizon of the Earth against the blackness of space. To date, more than 600 people have already booked a flight at a price of $ 250,000 per seat.
Unity and Imagine are based at Spaceport America in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic’s commercial hub where the company moved in 2019. Unity is in the final stages of its testing program – it is expected to launch a new suborbital mission in May – the third full spaceplane flight, but the first from Spaceport America. A previous attempt in December 2020 was aborted due to engine failure.
Ground testing of the Imagine will begin soon, and it will take to the skies as a glider (jet engine will not start) this summer, if all goes according to plan.
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